New Mexico Court Enjoins New Mexico Civil Guard From Publicly Operating as a Military Unit or Acting as Law Enforcement
Court’s Order Provides Relief Sought in Lawsuit Brought by District Attorney Raúl Torrez, with Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection as Co-Counsel
Albuquerque, New Mexico, October 17, 2022 — Second Judicial District Court Judge Elaine Lujan granted Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez’s request for an injunction against the extremist unlawful militia group known as the New Mexico Civil Guard (NMCG).
In an order filed on October 7, Judge Lujan issued an order prohibiting NMCG, its directors, officers, agents, employees, members, and any successor organizations from organizing and operating in public as part of a military unit independent of New Mexico’s civil authority and without having been lawfully activated by the Governor of New Mexico. Further, the Judge barred the group from assuming law-enforcement functions by using or projecting the ability to use organized force at protests, demonstration, or public gatherings.
This ruling grants a motion for default judgment filed by District Attorney Torrez following the conduct of the group’s founder during a deposition. Bryce Provance, designated to appear on behalf of NMCG, flagrantly violated a court order requiring the deposition and made a mockery of the judicial process by refusing to identify himself or answer basic questions. Provance also brought hand-drawn images to the deposition that were both threatening and indecent. Of the little information Provance provided during his testimony, he admitted that he destroyed all records pertaining to NMCG by pouring bleach on his computer and setting it on fire. In addition to issuing default judgment as a sanction for this misconduct, the court also issued default judgment based on the organization’s failure to retain counsel after the withdrawal of its attorney following the contemptuous deposition.
The lawsuit was brought in July 2020 after members of the NMCG deployed to a protest seeking the removal of a statue of Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate near Old Town in Albuquerque. Wearing camouflage attire and bearing assault-style rifles and other military gear, the NMCG purported to “protect” the statue from defacement, usurping law enforcement authority and threatening public safety. In the tense environment exacerbated by NMCG’s heavily armed presence, a protester unaffiliated with the group shot and injured another protester.
Before the lawsuit, NMCG had held several “musters” and other paramilitary training in the state, and had self-deployed at other demonstrations and public gatherings. The lawsuit sought the injunctive relief that the court has now granted, in order to protect New Mexicans exercising their constitutional rights from being intimidated and threatened by untrained and armed extremists attempting to unlawfully function as the police or the military.
“This default judgment illustrates more to the community than penalties and sanctions,” said Torrez. “The lawsuit was filed to prevent the risk of violent confrontation that NMCG’s conduct created at public events. NMCG’s flaunting of the Court’s authority makes it even more clear that this group is dangerous, and the Court properly barred NMCG from usurping the role of law enforcement. The Court’s Order makes our community safer by preventing a paramilitary group from engaging in threatening conduct at demonstrations and protests.”
District Attorney Torrez was co-represented in this case by the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP) at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., and Peifer, Hanson, Mullins & Baker in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This is ICAP’s second successful case ICAP against private paramilitary groups for publicly engaging in unauthorized military and law enforcement activity. Representing the City of Charlottesville and local businesses and residential associations, ICAP successfully obtained injunctions against white supremacist and unlawful paramilitary organizations that violated state laws during the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.
“Clear rulings from courts, like this injunction against the New Mexico Civil Guard, send a powerful message to unlawful private paramilitary groups that their efforts to take the law into their own hands will not be tolerated. It’s critical to lay down these markers to establish that unauthorized paramilitary activity is incompatible with the rule of law,” said ICAP’s Executive Director Mary B. McCord.
District Attorney Torrez will remain vigilant in his commitment to prevent unlawful paramilitary activity in New Mexico, and he will immediately seek to enforce the Order if NMCG or any successor organization, its directors, officers, agents, employees, or members–including the other named defendants in the suit—show up at public events as unsanctioned military units or attempt to engage in functions reserved to law enforcement.
Read the court’s order here.